A Geek’s Guide to Washington D.C.’s AwesomeCon

By Emma Louise Backe

Awesome Con is in Washington, D.C. this weekend and I can’t wait to see the Metro flooded with cyborgs, otaku and every version of fan and cosplay imaginable. Founded in 2013, Awesome Con deserves special commendation for their Zero Tolerance Policy on gender-based harassment. Their website states very clearly that cosplay does not mean consent, even stipulating that guests must ask permission before they take a photograph of any individuals in cosplay. Throughout the weekend, I will be conducting interviews with Awesome Con staff, including co-founder Ben Penrod, as well as Collective Action For Safe Spaces and Feminist Public Works to learn more about their anti-harassment training and how the training will be implemented for guests and participants.

There are so many panels taking place Friday, Saturday and Sunday, but I want to spotlight the events I’ll be sure to attend. Not only will there be screenings of Cowboy BeBop, Sailor Moon, Deathnote, and forthcoming horror movies like Tales of Poe, as well as bouts of tabletop and video gaming, but many of the panels deal with representation and diversity in comics, body positivity and safety in geek spaces, and the role of culture, science and technology in alternative universe building.

Awesome Economic Impact, Awesome Con Media Kit

Awesome Economic Impact, Awesome Con Media Kit

Friday, May 29

Cosplay Bullying and Harassment: How to Identify and Rise Above It, 4:00-5:00 pm, 102B

Body shaming, racism, negativity, bullying. The cosplay community faces these challenges on a daily basis. How do these topics impact the community? What we can to do help resolve them?

Your Move: Creating Inclusive Gaming Spaces, 7:00-8:00 pm, 102A

A gamer should not be judged by her gender, but by the content of her character sheet! We’ll talk about women’s experiences in gaming, how to replicate the good, and how to reduce the bad. Let’s work to make gaming more diverse, welcoming, and fun!

Exploring Sexuality in Star Trek, 8:15-9:15 pm, 103A

Since Captain Kirk first glimpsed an immodest miniskirt, sexuality has been as much a Star Trek element as warp drive.. Sexual themes are all throughout Star Trek, and there are many characters and episodes that inspire tasteful discussion. Shall we?

Saturday, May 30

Colonization and Beyond: The Science and Fiction of Exoplanets and What It Would Really Take to Get There, 10:00-11:00 am, 102A

We’ve now discovered over 1,000 exoplanets orbiting other stars, but can we ever reach them? This panel will explore the differences between science fiction’s portrayal of interstellar travel with the reality of such a journey.

Sexism, Violence and Geekdom, 11:15-12:15 pm, 145A

Join Howard County’s Sexual & Domestic Violence Center as they discuss depictions of gender, sexuality, and culture within the geek community, and how these important themes connect to gender based violence amongst and within that community.

The Problem of the Strong Female Character in Genre, 2:00-3:00 pm, 145B

Women in genre were the damsels in distress. Now, they’re “strong female characters,” who look great in leather. We’ll discuss problems with this cliche, since the real evolution for women characters should be as dynamic agents of their own stories.

Universal Translator: Linguistics in Science Fiction, 3:15-4:15 pm, 102B

Language shapes society and civilization, and gives depth and realism to other cultures in science fiction. Learn how the languages of Star Trek were developed and explore the future of modern languages in the coming centuries with other experts.

Diversity in Comics, 4:00-5:00 pm, 144

Comics have long reflected very little of the diversity we see in daily life both on the page and behind the scenes. Come hear and talk to several of the people working to reflect that diversity on both sides of the industry.

Zombies: Monsters With Meaning, 5:30-6:30 pm, 103A

An exploration of the zombie as a modern pop culture icon, from its first cinematic appearance in 1932 to the present. Why are we drawn to these dark carnival mirror reflections of us, and what do zombies have to say about our society and what we most fear? With the help of some of the most successful examples of the zombie in media through the decades, Dr. Blumberg opens the door to the crypt and invites us to have a look inside.

Sunday, May 31

Creating Great Female Characters, 10:00-11:00 am, 145B

Comic books are undergoing a renaissance led by some of the most interesting, badass, quirky, and above all independent female characters comics has ever seen. Come talk to writers and artists about what makes great female characters.

Dreaming the Myth Onward: The Psychological Significance of Contemporary Science Fiction Television Series, 12:00-1:00 pm, 102A

This session offers a fun look at the psychological significance of four sci-fi TV series (TNG, Voyager, B5, and BG), which weave together Christian and Gnostic symbolism and “dream the myth onwards” in Carl Jung’s words.

Fake Geek Girls, 1:00-2:00 pm, 156

Join the Fake Geek Girls podcast in a discussion about women’s role in Nerd Culture and how women are certainly not “Fake Geek Girls”. Share stories, experiences and how much we love being nerd girls!

Comics: Images of Disability – Evil Crip vs. Inspiration Porn, 1:45-2:45 pm, 103A

We can’t legislate attitude but with awareness attitudes can change some of the first images youth see are in comic books these images tend to caste people with disabilities in two veins Evil Crip vs. Inspiration Porn let’s have a conversation

In the Area

The convention will be held at Walter E. Washington Convention Center, right by the Mt. Vernon Metro stop. Conveniently close to the city center, and within walking distance to other cultural monuments like the White House and the National Mall, there are plenty of places for geeky gatherings. If you need a pick-me up, I would recommend Compass Coffee–they roast their beans in house and emphasis fair trade. Busboys and Poets on 5th and K has an awesome selection of vegetarian and gluten free options, a bookstore emphasizing social justice fiction and non-fiction, and music or artistic performances on a regular basis. Sundevich has a banging selection of sandwiches from all over the world or you can always pack a picnic for Jazz Night in the Sculpture Garden on Friday. My goal: to get a beer and a slice of pizza with John Rhys-Davies. Just don’t tell the elf.


Feel free to tweet at me (@JuJuJiving) if you’d like to meet up, chat, or say hello, especially if you’re in cosplay.

About Emma Louise Backe

PhD student in Medical Anthropology at the George Washington University and independent consultant, focusing on the intersections of international development, global health, reproductive health justice, gender-based violence, and the politics of care. Social justice sailor scout working on behalf of survivors of sexual violence, gender equity, and comprehensive sexual and reproductive health among vulnerable populations.

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